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August 8, 2013

Regulator Steps Up Probe Into S&P

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division is investigating whether Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services violated the law when the firm bungled ratings on a 2011 real-estate deal, according to people with direct knowledge of the probe.

On that deal, S&P had initially agreed in July 2011 to evaluate a $1.5 billion security made up of commercial real-estate loans but announced at the 11th hour that it was withdrawing its ratings. The SEC is investigating whether the circumstances around that decision involved violations of securities laws, the people said.

After S&P withdrew its ratings on the deal, the firm acknowledged that it had discovered discrepancies in the standards that its analysts used to rate such deals, but it said those differences were within an acceptable range.

The decision not to rate the deal at the last minute roiled the market for commercial-mortgage-backed securities, or CMBSs, and scuttled the deal for weeks, angering investors and issuers. The security was created and sold by two major players in the market,Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. Spokesmen for Goldman Sachs and Citi declined to comment Wednesday on the matter.”

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Read full Wall Street Journal article here

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